Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
January 23, 2013
Southwest Airlines' college recruiting efforts have expanded tremendously in recent years, mainly due to the growth of its internship program.
“Five years ago, we hired very few college graduates and did very little on campus,” explains Greg Muccio, who leads the team responsible for Southwest Airlines’ contingent work force staffing, college recruiting, and internship program. “Our internship program was small and mostly focused on aviation-related roles and some marketing positions.”
Now, he adds, the company’s NoLimits internship program covers 30-plus departments that use interns.
“We have gone from visiting five to 10 schools a year and posting at 30, to visiting 30-plus schools a semester and posting at more than 200,” he notes. “The success of NoLimits has now enabled us to more successfully recruit on campus for full-time positions when needed.”
Between 2008 and 2012, Southwest’s number of interns has grown from 125 to 227, and the number of resumes received from college students has soared from 5,500 to more than 25,700.
Southwest has taken several critical steps with its internship program to spark this growth. To replicate it, Muccio recommends these steps:
- Be clear about your internship program’s brand—Create a program brand that is clear to both students and faculty. Be able to explain the opportunities for interns, the potential for conversion, and how to connect with your organization.
- Have target school selection criteria that match company goals, then tailor efforts—Southwest visits campuses that have strong programs of interest, consistently produce competitive candidates and successful interns, and are “easy to work with.” Muccio says that each university Southwest visits has a different personality, and recruiting events must be tailored to ensure that the most students are being reached and are benefitting from Southwest’s presence.
- Find your best outlets for reaching students—Know your campus. Foster relationships with campus career centers and learn what works best on each campus to reach the students you are seeking. Southwest has determined that information sessions and classroom visits are the best way to share its internship program with students. During information sessions and visits, recruiters are able to not only tell students about Southwest’s culture, but show it as well. For example, NoLimits team members often host sessions in jeans and T-shirts.
- Value the experience—First and foremost, view your internships as learning opportunities for students. Southwest is very selective about the departments that are able to hire interns. Muccio explains that the rule of thumb is that if an intern would not be able to receive school credit after completing the internship, then that department is not a fit for the NoLimits program.
- Overcome internal challenges—Create solutions to your in-house challenges. Since Southwest has very low employee turnover, one challenge the company faces is having full-time employment opportunities for interns. Southwest addresses this by hosting a career day for interns that features interviewing tips, a networking session, information about its different departments, and instructions on how to apply for internal opportunities. Since the majority of Southwest’s open positions are filled internally, this is a key benefit to the internship program. The NoLimits program tackles budget constraints by encouraging interns to participate in all company events. Since they are considered employees by Southwest from their first day, interns are able to experience the culture of Southwest at no cost to the NoLimits Program.